Master of a Dying Art
One of New York’s last surviving reel-to-reel movie men adapts to life in a digital age.
Back in the days when most films were beamed onto screens from rolling projection reels, Richard Aidala absolutely hated going to the movies. After the lights went down, he found himself unable to pay attention to the plot, and could barely stand to look at the images in front of him. All he saw were mistakes. What was that reflection on the screen? Wasn’t the focus off? And what was going on with those lamps? The lamps needed to be realigned!
“I complained so much that nobody in my family would go to the cinema with me,” he says now, exploding into a characteristic burst of rowdy laughter.
But Aidala, a graying 62-year-old with bushy eyebrows, a sharp nose, and a perpetual grin, is no cinema buff. In fact, he has absolutely no interest in the craft of filmmaking. All he cares about is how films are shown.
Professionally, Aidala has done one thing for forty years: show moving images in theaters. Before cinemas switched to digital projectors, before films could fit on…